I used to think that Ronald McDonald Houses, which provide temporary housing to family members of children in hospitals, are a good idea. I was wrong–they’re actually life savers for those who suddenly find they need them, something that’s hard to appreciate until you’ve experienced it.
When we packed our car a year ago with enough stuff to last us the expected six month hospital stay 700 miles from home, we were literally driving into the unknown. Topping our list of stressful uncertainties was, of course, concern for our daughter. The vast majority of HLH patients require a bone marrow transplant to save their lives. But BMT itself carries significant risks, and as an Asian adoptee, the chances of even finding a good match for our daughter were low. Then there is the unimaginable disruption of indefinitely splitting your family in two, especially heading into the holidays. How do you keep life and school as normal as possible for your other child? How do you juggle work so the paycheck keeps coming in? What do you do with the family pets in the shuffle? The list is long and overwhelming: even with the tremendous support we received from family and friends, we were always in full-on coping mode.
Enter RMH. After a couple of weeks of living in the hospital with our daughter, a cherished room opened up across the street. Basic but functional and clean, it featured a real bed and, best of all, a private bathroom. Plus a very pleasant surprise: volunteers providing a wide variety of services. There was entertainment, ranging from music to puppet shows to story time. I even got a chair massage one day. But the best volunteer service was the meals. When you’re away from home for an extended period, home-cooked food is quickly missed, especially when the next best option is the hospital cafeteria. These wonderful people, from a different business or organization every night, gave up an evening to make us tacos or chili or spaghetti. Normally a picky eater, I was beyond grateful for every single meal. As a Walmart associate, I was touched by the local Target store team which brought plush Spot-the-dog toys for the children. I love that dog, now sitting on my daughter’s dresser.
So if any of you live near a RMH and are looking for a community service opportunity for your work or church group, please consider RMH. The meal or toys or music or quilts you provide will, trust me, make a difference to families going through the roughest time of their lives. Your gift will be in showing them that they are not alone.
“There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.” –Jane Austen